January is Thyroid Awareness Month, so let’s bring some much-needed attention to one of the body’s most under appreciated organs. The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck below the larynx. It produces two important hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, that help to regulate the body’s metabolic rate, heart function, muscle control, digestion, bone maintenance, and brain development. A variety of factors can cause the thyroid to become overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism). Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is the most common form of hypothyroidism in the United States and the focus of today’s blog.
What is it?
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease (meaning a disorder involving the body attacking itself) in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. This results in a thyroid gland that is not able to make enough thyroxine or triiodothyronine to perform their designated functions. Hashimoto’s can manifest in one of two forms, atrophic or goitrous. Antibodies break down the thyroid gland until it is no longer functional in atrophic Hashimoto’s, while a swollen and inflamed thyroid gland is the result of goitrous Hashimoto’s.
Hashimoto’s symptoms begin with an enlarged thyroid, usually referred to as a goiter. A large goiter can make swallowing difficult and make the neck look swollen. Some other commonly observed symptoms include cold intolerance, dry skin, constipation, weight gain, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, and a depressive mood. Many of these symptoms are not specific to Hashimoto’s, so they may be confused with other autoimmune diseases.
There are several risk factors linked to the development of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Leaky gut syndrome can lead to a variety of autoimmune conditions, and Hashimoto’s is no exception. Sex hormones are believed to play a major role, as Hashimoto’s affects five to eight times as many women as men. Environmental risk factors include exposure to high iodine levels, sleep apnea, and radiation exposure. A family history of thyroid disease or other autoimmune conditions also increases the likelihood of development.
What can I do about it?
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but it is a manageable condition through levothyroxine, a thyroid hormone replacement. Hormone replacement can restore metabolism to normal levels and greatly reduce most other symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s. While hormone therapy is an effective treatment, it is a lifelong battle for most patients. You should do everything you can to prevent getting it in the first place. Watch your iodine levels and treat sleep apnea early. Prevent leaky gut with a healthy diet and regular probiotic supplementation, and don’t take your thyroid for granted.
People who liked this blog, also read these:
- Video Series – The Six Truths You Need To Know Before Choosing A Probiotic
- Leaky Gut and You – A 3 Part Series: Part 1 of 3
- Graves’ Disease